Valdosta Daily Times


December 25, 2013

Do the ‘American Hustle’

VALDOSTA — “American Hustle” (Crime Drama: 2 hours, 18 minutes)

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner

Director: David O. Russell

Rated: PG-13 (Profanity, violence and sexual content)

Movie Review: Movies are great for certain reasons. Some have a great story that provides impact. Others have an artistic flair to create original entertainment. “American Hustle’s” best attribute is the fact it has a talented cast performing at an optimal level.  

During the late 1970s, Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) is a businessman with a terrible comb-over hairstyle. His business operations are just a front for his illegal con artist schemes. Sydney Prosser (Adams) is his sultry British partner and mistress. Together, they are raking in money with small Ponzi schemes. To avoid prison, they must work with an unorthodox FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Cooper). Rosenfeld and Prosser reluctantly enter a bigger arena, a dangerous world of corrupt politics, powerful mafia bosses and shady capitalists.  

This screenplay’s great attribute is its acting talents. The cast outshines a story that is intriguing, but the plot is not as convincing as the actors.

At the top, Bale is Academy Award worthy. His performance as Rosenfeld is compelling on many levels. The character appears as if he is prone to violence via appearance. One would think he is a violent man, yet he is a lover, a loving father and romantic. He is a refined gentleman, minus his illegal activities. One would think his life of crime would conflict with standards of decency, but Bale makes the character likable.

Bale’s accomplice is the beautiful Amy Adams. She is superb as a seductress. She wears very seductive attire throughout the film as she pretends to be nobility. She has an elegant appeal, although she is the most complex character of this screenplay. Her motives are tougher to distinguish. This makes it harder to sympathize with the character occasionally, but Adams is likable and talented here.

Cooper’s Agent DiMaso is the opposite of Bale and Adam’s roles. He is a law-enforcement official, but he is one of the film’s most unethical characters. DiMaso is a jerk, and Cooper plays him well. Of course, Cooper plays crazed, crude parts well. In addition, Lawrence plays Bale’s unpredictable wife, Rosalyn, nicely. She is a talented actress. Like Cooper, Lawrence plays extreme well.

The major problem with Cooper and Lawrence’s roles is that they appear very similar to their turns in “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012), which garnered an Oscar for Lawrence and was also directed by David Russell. Apparently, practice makes perfect. Despite the similarities to last year’s roles, Cooper and Lawrence are superior.

Two other talents round out the cast, Renner and De Niro. Renner is especially gratifying as Carmine Polito, a passionate New Jersey mayor. He just wants his city and state to be the talk of the nation. He cares for all of his fellow citizens, not just the ones like him. He has the best of intentions, even if his means are slightly unbecoming of an elected official. Renner’s character is one of the most intriguing, and the actor plays him superbly. Robert De Niro plays syndicate leader Victor Tellegio in an uncredited role. The role is very small and quiet. De Niro says little, but his icy stare is menacing enough to make this cameo worthy of plenty of discussion.

These characters and others are all unique. They are worthy of cinematic study. When their lives collide, this makes them very watchable. They make this story enjoyable, even when moments of this screenplay by Russell and Eric Singer are sketchy. The interactions of these people make all interesting. Even more, their unpredictable lifestyles make each scene a treat. The audience never knows what may happen.  

Russell’s direction is good, despite a major flaw in his screenplays. He has a tendency to make characters different by making them over-the-top performances.

Still, Russell captures the 1970s setting beautifully, providing a more adequate atmosphere for his characters to exist. He also provides plenty of moments of enjoyment, including comical moments, that one will not care when story elements appear odd.

Russell, the cast and crew provide good stuff and they deserve plenty of praise. Again, the characters, despite some being over the top, are the gems of this tale. The period drama has some quirks, but it provides some fine entertainment.  

Grade: B+ (Do the Hustle ...)

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